Sunday, August 23, 2009

Visiting Bonaire

Before reaching Curacao we definitively had to stop at the awsome island of Bonaire, which is the most eastern island of the three islands forming the Nederlands Antilles, hence belonging to Holland and located offshore of Venezuela. After sailing through the Venezuelan islands of Los Roques and the Aves it would be hard to be impressed but Bonaire had more than one rabbit in its hat to compete against its easterly neighbourgs. We decided to stay about a week and enjoy the hostpitality of the place. We rented a little scooter and drove half of the island for hours and spent 2.3 liters of gas!

But what was the striking aspect of Bonaire is the wildlife. It first started when we were a few miles east of the island when a school of about 10 dolphins came to swim at our bow for over 15 minutes. Dolphins are not unusual but we didn’t see that many so far in our trip. Then once at Bonaire we had to use a mooring ball since anchoring is prohibited in order to protect the corals. In fact, we are mooring just on top of a reef standing on a slope where a nice sea turtle lives and we had the pleasure to swim with it. I slightly touched her 2 feet shell but she didn’t like it and quickly finished to take her breath and swam down. Later we saw a jellyfish that was about 15 inches in diameter swimming just a few feet from us! No need to say that we quickly got out of the way and of the water. The next day we saw two others about the same size. Thankfully the water is very clear here and we can see them coming from far away. Another day a large eagle ray came feeding just under the boat. It was different from the manta ray we saw in Grenada for it was a bit smaller, had a shorter tail and a characteristic face that Danielle describes as a “dog” face. Bonaire being so clean we can could just jump off the boat and snorkel right in front of the downtown and see lots of huge parrot fishes and also came face to face with a large moray that must have been at least two or three feet long. Again, we didn’t play fools and didn’t try to bother it. During our scooter ride we drove by a lake on the north side of the island where the tourist map shows a nesting location for the pink flamingos. Since the human race has already wiped out all interesting or special species of animals in all the areas we visited so far we thought that we would just find an empty place but to our great pleasure that wasn’t the case. Bonaire do not joke about the environment and this is probably why we could see about 10 flamingos feeding just about 100 feet from the small road and probably 50 others way further behind the large island sitting in the middle of the lagoon. This along with the wild parrots and many other very colorful birds was definitively the highlight of the day!

One day we looked at a suggested site on the tourist map described as a donkey sanctuary and is located just behind the airport. We looked at it and estimated this would be about 5 Km so we thought let’s practice for the Peru trip and let’s take our backpacks and walk over there. By the road we should be able to see the donkeys! Well, this was a bit different than that. For one it was more 8 Km and walking that distance under the scorching sun of south America with no shade along the way it was quite a walk but we brought enough water so we were able to manage all the way almost without crawling! Then once we got there we realized that this was a place where some people decided to take care of the local donkeys many of them taken from their owners who were mistreating them. They had a large piece of land where they would let their 400 donkeys wonder around in a peaceful environment and to finance their activity let the visitors drive by the land in their own car and see the animals. Of course since we walked we didn’t have a car but the lady nicely offered us to use her old jeep. She probably pitied us for walking almost to death and then not even being able to see the donkeys! We took the jeep and had a great time. As we were leaving the sanctuary a couple stop by us and offered us a ride back in town, which we gladly accepted.